“Still Memory”

The dream was so deep
the bed came unroped from its moorings,
drifted upstream till it found my old notch

in the house I grew up in,
then it locked in place.
A light in the hall—

my father in the doorway, not dead,
just home from the graveyard shift
smelling of crude oil and solvent.

In the kitchen, Mother rummages through silver
while the boiled water poured
in the battered old drip pot

unleashes coffee’s smoky odor.
Outside, the mimosa fronds, closed all night,
open their narrow valleys for dew.

Around us, the town is just growing animate,
its pulleys and levers set in motion.
My house starts to throb in its old socket.

My twelve-year-old sister steps fast
because the bathroom tiles
are cold and we have no heat other

than what our bodies can carry.
My parents are not yet born each
into a small urn of ash.

My ten-year-old hand reaches
for a pen to record it all
as would become long habit.

This poem by Mary Karr has me wondering, today, about identity. The smells and sensations that we carry along within us, the objects or people, that when viewed through the faculty of our memories, are transformed and recreated, assimilated into our identities and subject to analysis and interpretations both accurate and inaccurate.

Mary Karr is a fabulous poet and memoirist. Her work reflects a certain fearlessness and honesty about both mistakes and discoveries she has made over the course of her life. She’s a courageous poet, and I have a lot, still, to learn from her.

Which female authors or poets inspire you towards greater courage or honesty in your own life?

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